John Salley: The NBA Champion On Going Vegan For Athletic Performance, Longevity & The Environment (Plus: Why So Many Pro Athletes Die Young)

“If you’re a professional athlete, and after the game you’re eating at the same place that somebody in the audience is eating at? You’re making a mistake.”

John Salley

It’s one thing when a skinny runner dude starts talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet.

It’s another thing altogether when a 6′ 11″ 4-time NBA Champion tells you it’s a good idea.

Enter John Salley.

Husband, father, athlete, actor, entrepreneur, talk show host, philanthropist, wellness advocate, NBA champion… and vegan.

John was the first basketball player in NBA history to win four championships with three different teams in three different decades — two with the Detroit Pistons (’89 & ’90), one with the Chicago Bulls (’96) & one more with the Los Angeles Lakers (’00). After eleven seasons he retired as a Laker on the 2000 NBA Lakers Championship team. Since his retirement from the NBA, John has worked consistently in television, film, radio, print and new media. For seven years he co-hosted the Emmy-nominated series The Best Damn Sports Show Period (FOX). He then hosted BET’s sports talk show Baller before creating his own show Game On for REELZ. In addition, John is an avid entrepreneur, channeling his enthusiasm for clean eating & advocacy for the vegan lifestyle into an array of ventures, including The Vegan Vine, his California wine brand (who knew some wine wasn’t vegan?), and his Betta Life 21-Day Challenge.

John’s mission is simple: to educate as many people as possible on the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.

This is a fairly free range conversation that takes us inside John’s NBA career; what it was like to play ball at the highest level with guys like Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Shaq; and how being coached by Phil Jackson, perhaps the greatest coach in basketball history, helped forge his character and inform his post-NBA career success.

We get into the hows and whys of John’s decision to go vegan; his opinion on how most professional athletes eat; why so many professional athletes die young; how he works with both athletes and average folks to change misplaced, normative ideas about the plant-based lifestyle; the importance of yoga and meditation in his routine; and what drives his mission to change the face of global health. A few more topics covered include:

  • forging normative change by example
  • the link between cancer & diet
  • plant-based nutrition for athletes
  • the importance of stepping stone goals
  • warning the NBA about the nutrition risks
  • millennial adaptation to technology
  • making money while you sleep
  • the benefits of meditation
  • John’s stellar NBA career
  • Coach Phil Jackson & team dynamics
  • fragility of reputation & Big Brother

John is an easy guy to love. He is engaging, incredibly charismatic and always entertaining. But behind the playful attitude is a serious message worth heeding.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,


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Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

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Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.

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